On a ride to the airport today, the driver was sharing how he knows a naturally gifted technician who has been servicing his vehicles since the young man was 16 years old. He now works as the head diagnostic technician at a local shop. He said the young man aspires to own his own shop in the next few years.
Does this sound familiar? It does to me, as this is the same path I took into the industry as I took my hobby of working on air-cooled Volkswagens and turned it into a career. Within 10 years of working at various shops and dealerships, I went out on my own, very similar to most of you who are reading this article.
I shared with him that besides owning six shops, I also have a business teaching folks like this young technician how to stop working on cars and to run their businesses. We had a great chat the rest of the trip to the airport about life and business. He is an older gentleman who retired from corporate life and now has a small executive transportation business. I thought to myself, if I had not retired my tools and myself from working in the shop, I would not be headed away from my shop for the next six weeks!
The first “professional” training I received as a new business owner was one of those “one-day” seminars on how to run a profitable shop. The one thing I remember was them telling the room of shop owners, “The best thing you can do for your business is taking your toolbox home.” I thought the ceiling was going to collapse as we all inhaled, shocked by what we just heard. At the time I was the only tech in my shop, besides a friend of mine who I was training. He was still learning how to do oil changes properly. I knew I couldn’t do it then, but that it had to be my goal.
This goal was compounded later that year as my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and lived over 2,000 miles away. I proudly proclaim I am a bit of a mama’s boy, as she has always been my biggest fan and supporter. It was heartbreaking knowing she was going through the surgery and treatments without me being able to be at her side. Fortunately, she had my dad and they caught it early enough that the treatments killed the cancer, and she is still with us at 85 years old. I went on a mission to build my company to a point where I could take time off and it would run without me in the day-to-day operations.
I say this only half joking, it was hard as I was the best technician and service advisor my company had for the first five years of being in business. Like most shop owners, I thought I just needed support and help, and I could stay the smartest person in the business. That’s great if you never plan to have a shop with more than a half dozen employees. You will have great customer service and deliver high-quality work; however, you will also trap yourself and not have the freedom you deserve as a business owner.
So, the million-dollar question is, ‘How do I get from working IN my business to working ON my business?’
It is easier said than done, for sure! It takes you being a next-level leader and putting your ego aside. It means trusting your team or hiring someone who has the skills to replace you in the current role you’re in. Create an avatar of what the person who would run the day-to-day operations would look like. What skill sets do they have and what are the intangibles you need to see?
It takes you being willing to take time to document the way you want your business to run. What makes your company special: why your customers love you, and why your current employees work for you. Define your mission, vision and values. More and more owners are leveraging technology and using video to document their processes and procedures. There is no use writing a novel that nobody will ever read.
I also have to say, don’t be in a rush. This process takes time to do it right and you will fall during the process. I would also say, put realistic deadlines on yourself. Humans do better with deadlines, even if they are self-induced. Next month I will be debunking the common myth of “stay small and keep it all” and how to ride the coming wave for the automotive repair industry. God Bless and don’t work too hard my friends, talk to you next month.
Dedicated to Transforming our beloved industry.